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US judge dismisses suit by French Goodyear workers

  • Article by: THOMAS J. SHEERAN
  • Associated Press
  • January 16, 2014 - 1:35 PM

CLEVELAND — A judge in the town that's home to Goodyear has thrown out a lawsuit filed by French workers trying to save their tire-making jobs at a plant that has become a symbol of their country's labor tensions. Workers plan to appeal.

U.S. District Court Judge Sara Lioi in Akron ruled against workers who had sued to block the shutdown of the 1,000-employee plant in Amiens. The lawsuit had sought $4 million in damages.

In a 14-page decision late Wednesday, the judge said the class-action lawsuit failed to prove claims of contract violations or wrongful interference by the parent Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in its French operations.

Attorneys for the workers said their clients are determined to appeal.

Goodyear spokesman Keith Price said the company welcomed the ruling. "We are pleased with the decision and that the court ruled in Goodyear's favor on all counts," he said in an email.

Plant workers seized the plant's director and human resources chief for two days in early January to demand bigger severance packages. The managers were released after police intervened.

The lawsuit said Goodyear had hurt worker pay tied to production by making fewer tires at the plant.

The lawsuit also said the company had defied French court rulings in favor of the workers and violated French laws requiring informing employees and consulting with them.

Goodyear has been trying to restructure or close the plant in northern France for more than five years in the face of a shrinking European car market.

"Boss-napping" has happened sporadically in France in the past, but police generally don't intervene to avoid inflaming tensions while mediators try to settle the labor dispute.

The Amiens plant has a contentious past. Goodyear's attempts to close it have been stalled by violent protests and France's prolonged layoff procedures.

Throughout the dispute, the plant has continued to make tires, although at very low levels. It closed for the year-end holidays.

© 2014 Star Tribune